Rider Stories

On this page, we will be featuring many of the incredible individuals who have joined us in the past and will be joining us in the future for SBT GRVL! You will get insight from these interviews on preparation for SBT GRVL, facing hardships, and celebrating successes.

Rider Stories #12: Our Youngest Rider is 9 years old!

It seems appropriate that the first rider is aptly named Ryder Robinson, who lives here in town. Ryder is our youngest participant and will be 9 years old on race day. You read that right: 9! 

Ryder loves steak and spaghetti and his favorite sports are hockey, football, basketball, skinning, nordic combined, soccer and mountain biking. According to his mom, Ryder “is excited and nervous to ride something this long. He said he only wants to do it if it’s hard.” We completely agree with that point-of-view. 

Let’s hear it for Ryder and getting #morekidsonbikes

Rider Stories #11: Q&A with Lentine Alexis

Meet the Rider: Chef Lentine Alexis is a curious, classically trained chef, cookbook author + former professional endurance athlete. She her bicycle, raw life and travel experiences and organic ingredients to inspire athletes and everyone to dig deeper, live bigger + more deliciously through food.

Have you done SBT before and what are you most looking forward to about the event? Which distance are you riding? I haven’t done SBT before! And I’m really excited for the challenge of the Black course – can’t wait to fill my tank w/those smooth miles + wide open skies! 

I ride gravel because….I love the metaphor, the quiet and the adventure of the road less traveled. Here in Colorado, there are far more places to see than paved roads to get you there…sometimes you have to take an off-the-beaten path route to find the places + things you’re looking for. 

What are you eating the night before the race? Post race meal? I’m thinking of SBT more as a huge journey rather than a “race,” so I’m less worried about “optimal fuel” than I am with making sure my body feels balanced + strong to tackle the unexpected on the day. I’ll be staying in my van the night before the event, and so will probably make myself a big rice bowl w/the farmer’s market ingredients I stuff into the fridge on my way up to Steamboat. I love a big bowl of steamed rice, carrot + cabbage slaw, arugula, fried eggs and homemade kim chi mayo. And, probably an ice cold beer. Post race will be whatever I’ve been craving on the ride, plus probably a popsicle and a big dip in the river! 

Strangest food you’ve ever stuffed into a jersey pocket…I started riding bikes on a little island in southern Japan and I loved stopping at the convenience store for ride foods. The “strangest” thing I ever pocketed to fuel my big training rides was probably a little “onigiri” rice bowl – basically steamed rice stuffed with pickled plums and wrapped in nori. I had no idea that I would eventually be making hundreds of “rice cakes” for the pro peloton with Skratch Labs….and so onigiri doesn’t feel so weird anymore. 

Go to ride fuel? Anything homemade. I’ve been loving making the savory granola bar recipe I recently shared with my Recipe Club and cherry pocket pies for my rides so far this summer, but tahini-nori rice cakes (also on the blog!) are also a favorite. If I don’t have time to make something from scratch, dates or a peanut butter + honey sandwich are my faves.

Favorite memory from working in the dirt at Fetcher Ranch yesterday? I LOVED the opportunity to get out to Fetcher Ranch, see the course, connect and learn the history of the ranch and of Steamboat proper. I was born and raised in Colorado, but I’m still learning a lot about this part of our state…the opportunity to see the cycling community connecting on a deeper level with the agricultural community and the local community is so unique and mutually supportive. It’s a feeling that I wish was more prevalent in sport — the idea that through our rides we’re connecting to something larger than ourselves and our goals. 

Favorite local ride? That depends on the definition of “local!” I love the ride from Boulder to Aspen and aim to ride it each summer if I can. In my hometown of Boulder, I love riding to the local bakery at dawn, in time to get the first croissants out of the oven. 

Goals for SBT GRVL? Could be something fun or a certain finish time or place you have in mind. I’m still very much an athlete myself, but my work is really fueling other athletes and their goals. It’s been a while since I could focus on enjoying an event for myself so I’m looking forward to having a big day on the bike with friends, getting to know a place new to me with each pedal stroke. 

Any tips for fueling at altitude?  YES. Fueling at altitude requires attention and care. It’s so much drier at altitude that it can be tough to tell how much you’re sweating, or just how taxed your body really is! Hydration is almost more important than food – be sure to drink plenty of liquids (at least 16-24oz bottle/hour) and make sure to use a hydration mix…water is NOT enough to replace lost electrolytes! Test out the mix before the race to ensure it agrees with your body. Be sure to have some favorite snacks and ride foods as well. Eat often, nibbling on something each hour, and be sure to have both salty and sweet foods. Gels, bars and packaged products always seem to give me digestive distress, so I stick to easy, real foods (typically homemade) that I know my body loves.


Rider Stories #10:

Interview with Stanley Cup Winner Andrew Ference

Meet the Rider: 

Andrew Ference is a retired NHL star who’s played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers. In 2011, Ference helped the Bruins win their sixth Stanley Cup championship and famously organized and led a parade and flash mob in Boston’s North End. Can we expect the same excitement in Steamboat this summer? 

SBT: Thanks for joining us Andrew, we’re so excited to have you with us in Steamboat this summer. We’ve carved out a penalty box just in case we catch you cross-checking at the starting line.  What are you most looking forward to about SBT GRVL.

Andrew: Decent gravel to ride!  Our farm roads in Alberta typically have deep sandy, big rock gravel and they are dead straight for miles and miles.  It’s great for training but it takes its toll after a while!

SBT: Have you ever visited Steamboat before?

Andrew: I’ve come through Steamboat on a motorbike once and rode my real bike just south of there during Haute Route Colorado.

SBT: Can you draw any parallels between the start of a bike race and racing up and down the ice during a game?  

Andrew: I think the biggest similarity is the excitement of testing out all of your preparation.  I have always loved the training but only if it has an outlet where I can test it out. 

SBT: What drew you into cycling? What attracts you to gravel? 

Andrew: My bike was my freedom when I was a kid, and it kind of still feels like that.  I love exploring new roads and it is a lot like meditation for me.  I always used it for training and was able to separate myself, from a conditioning and mental strength standpoint, from a lot of my competition as a hockey player.  I love [the bike exploration game] Wandrer, which promotes the exploration of new roads, and that’s what really got me into more gravel riding.  Also, Tim Johnson had a big influence on my perspective of what can actually be ridden with a road bike.  Now, unless there are huge roots, I ride as many trails as I do roads.    

SBT: We’ve got to know, what hurts more, a bike race or a hockey game? 

Andrew: Bike racing is harder, not even close.  The mental anguish of a hard climb doesn’t have a comparison in the world of hockey.

SBT: Knew it! What’s the farthest you’ve ridden?

Andrew: 260km

SBT: Impressive! What are your goals for SBT?  

Andrew: By far the biggest goal is to just enjoy the route and not forget to pick my head up and look around a bit.  

SBT: That’s what makes SBT GRVL so great, we certainly have the scenery. Any training or recovery tips/ bits of wisdom that you’ve taken from your time on the ice and applied to cycling?

Andrew: Quite the opposite.  I learned almost all of my recovery tricks from my cycling buddies.  I’m big on the NormaTec leg compression, Compex muscle stimulation is great, and I have this meat tenderizer thing called Deep Muscle Stimulator which I use almost every day.  I guess the best tip for training is that you have to actually enjoy it.  If training is a job for you, you’re either not doing it right or you should reconsider training for something else.  Being miserable and expecting good results is a fool’s game. Oh, and the Skratch Labs recipe book for portable snacks is dynamite.

SBT: Great tips there. So, if you could challenge one other pro (non cyclist) athlete to a bike race, who would it be?

Andrew: Roger Federer, mostly just because I wouldn’t mind hanging around Roger Federer. 

SBT: Maybe we’ll get him on the line next year. He tried to register but we sold out too fast and had to tell him it was first come, first served ba dum tss 🎾. Just kidding Roger, if you volunteer we’ll hold a spot for you next year.  

Rider Stories #9: Interview with Matthew Curbeau

You placed 9th in SBT GRVL in 2019 (incredible result!). Was there a defining moment in your day?
Well thank you very much! I am truly proud of achieving that in 2019. My family had a lot going on that year and in terms of racing things hadn’t really gone too good. So to have a beautiful weekend in Steamboat with my friends the Bockard’s AND have a good race…well it was to say the least refreshing.

I’d have to say that the moment which sticks out the most is when the group I was with split for the final time. It was the aid station in the middle of the longest climb of the day. Half of us stopped to refuel and half didn’t. I had dropped a bottle early on in the race and was always just a little behind, so I was one of the ones that made the choice to load up. This ended up costing me my spot with the front pack on course, but it may also have been the smartest move possible as I felt great all the way to the finish. Maybe I gave up too much or maybe I didn’t. You always question those things when you finish strong.

But more importantly because I chose to stop I ended up in a group with my friend Matt Lieto whom I always seem to find myself with at these gravel races. Whether its Unbound or SBT we always just seem to find one another deep into the race. In this case out of that second group on the road it was just him and I with about 40 miles left. 8 guys up the road. We had a little bit of a lull on a descent into a flat section and we chatted. I told him about my daughter and we had one of the most down to earth nice chats in the middle of this feisty race. I think he knew that I had a little bit more juice in the tank and encouraged me to go after the final couple of hills, corkscrew maybe? The group ahead was in sight which meant a potential top 5 was in reach, albeit still in the distance. I charged up the hill and all the way to the finish. I didn’t catch them but i finished with my hair on fire and really will remember that whole section as a great race moment.

You applied and were selected to race LeadBoat in 2020. What was the original appeal of the event?
BIG AND BAD! Challenges that take me out of my comfort zone and make me a little nervous are something I love. Not to mention the fact that I am not a top end engine. Let’s face it with the field as strong as it is these days I am not cracking the top 5 of an Unbound or winning SBT. It’s just not in the cards. My day job is pretty intense, I work a lot of hours, I have a kid and I try to be a functioning adult…Life is good, but life is busy and I simply don’t have the hours needed to be at the true front. BUT what i have is 10+ years of endurance training and racing and all of the knowledge that comes from that. I love the idea of putting two events, both with their own REAL challenges back to back and then saying, “Who can get to the finish line in Steamboat in the least amount of time”. It’s not about winning the races its about the breaking them down into two pieces and figuring out what can I do so that at mile 80 of SBT I can turn on the afterburners. I like the long game as it makes up for the natural talent I lack.

You’re signed up for LeadBoat 2021. How is your preparation going so far?
Well, its not horrible. But it could be better. At this point I would have hoped to have a solid top 20 at Unbound in the books, but that wasn’t in the cards this year. Training the volume that I feel is necessary for these races has been hard with a very busy work schedule and added to that I got wicked sick the week before Unbound and really am just getting back to normal now. It was a chest infection turned double sinus infection and boy did it knock me out. However, I’ve got the summer ahead and am really looking to log the hard miles week in and week out. There isn’t a to of road racing going on in the Northeast right now so I have no excuses to not stick to the training plan and build myself into shape. I’ve got some ideas on how I can sneak in the volume during the weeks and also get comfortable on my mountain bike for Leadville. I’ll be honest, I literally haven’t touched my MTB since last November. That said, my MTB and me are going to be spending a lot of TLC over the next 2 months!!

I understand you’re doing a 2 day ride of significant distance? What’s the significance of the ride? (share as much or a little as you want here!)
Thank you for asking. As I write this I am back in my hometown of Penn Yan, NY which is about 400 miles, give or take, from where we live in Boston, MA. Saturday June 26th I will be starting out on a 2 day bike ride, covering those 400 or so miles back to Boston. This will be my second annual #RIDE4CLAIRE. It is a fundraiser that I have created to benefit The Boston Children’s Hospital. A place that is near and dear to my family.

In 2019 my wife and I welcomed out first child, Claire into the world in January. Four months later as I was sitting in the Emporia dorm rooms on the night before DK2019, my wife called me with likely the worst news two new parents can ever receive. She had just got the news that our beautiful Claire had tumors discovered in one of her eyes. That was some heavy news. Needless to say I was floored. We talked, we cried and we carried on. Kait told me to get riding the next day and then get on home after. That next day was tough as I had mechanicals and didn’t have the day I was hoping for…but man I was motivated to finish that thing! As it turns out our daughter was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, which is essentially multiple tumors in both eyes. Treatment began immediately with 6 rounds of chemotherapy at Dana Farber as well as monthly eye exams at the Childrens Hospital.

Flash forward 2 years and Claire is in a great spot. It’s been both a very long and very short two years to say the least with COVID thrown in there. If that even makes sense…ha. We visit The Children’s Hospital monthly for eye exams that result in either laser or cryo therapy top treat any active tumors. It’s a long process that will take many years but it’s one that is going well. She has her vision and is growing up like a normal crazy toddler. We are so lucky to have such great facilities and doctors in our area.

Over the past 2 years my wife and I have raised almost $40,000 for The Children’s Hospital and we are extremely proud and happy to be able to give back to a place that has given us so much. We are so thankful for all the support from our family and friends who have made these raises possible. This year’s #ride4claire is up over $6,000 with a week to go until the ride!

Link to fundraising page

What’s the most daunting part of LeadBoat for you?
To be honest its the training. I know what I want to achieve over the next two months and if I do I am confident that all things equal I will have a great shot and being able to do really well. But that is me as a racer and wanting to achieve the best result possible. I still have that blazing competition streak in me. However, that is not what this stuff is all about. Whether things go great and I am as fit as ever or not…I am still going to have an experience of a lifetime in Colorado. It’s something new that is a little bigger than me and scares me a bit. I can’t wait to tackle the races, road trip with my buddy and just see what the races can throw at me.
BUT ALSO, Leadville. I’ve never done the race and have hear lots of stories. It’s at an elevation I have never really been at before let alone race. So I don’t truly know what i am getting into, but rest assure I will try to get all the info I can and be as smart as possible. Lots of unknowns for that day which will make it for a truly interesting day!

What are you looking forward to most with the weekend racing in CO?
Having a bit of a “vacation” and getting to ride my bike for just about all of it! I am really looking forward to being with my friends and having a bit of an adventure with Cliff as we both tackle this new challenge that is two crazy events back to back!

Rider Stories #8: Interview with Kaysee Armstrong

Professional mountain biker and Liv athlete, Kaysee Armstrong (@kaysodip), is set to compete in the inaugural LeadBoat Challenge.  Kaysee always likes to take on new challenges and push her limits.  She is a skilled and diverse athlete who competes in multiday bike endurance events.

In a recent interview with SBT GRVL’s @amymcharity she discusses how she overcomes fear, what it takes to be strong at both technical mountain bike and gravel races, nutrition advice, her training plan for the LeadBoat, and answers our rapid fire questions.  Watch the entire interview here.

Rider Stories #7: Q and A with Meg Fisher

You might remember that we introduced Meg Fisher back in December when we announced our series of LeadBoat stories. Meg’s astounding story of overcoming the loss of a limb and a partner in a tragic car accident to become a paralympic gold medalist and successful physical therapist, resonated through our endurance community. 

As Meg continued to train through a Montana winter, competing in the Leadville Trail 100 and SBT GRVL races was still her number one target. She even added the gravel behemoth, Dirty Kanza 200, for good measure.

Fast forward a few months and enter a global pandemic, and life looks a little different for Meg. Circumstances have changed drastically, but her motivation to train and stay focused hasn’t wavered. 

We recently touched base with Meg to see how her training has been going and learned that her story of perseverance and resilience is more relevant than ever.

How have you been keeping busy during all of the craziness the world has thrown our way?

I’m a physical therapist, and like many Americans, I’ve been temporarily laid off. Time out of the clinic has given me a greater perspective as well as more time to ride.  I’ve also had to balance the challenges of caring for my mom who’s been sick and supporting my local community where I can. It’s given me more time to ride, but also requires me to balance the discomforts along the way. 

This is a trying time, but it’s important to remember that we’re all capable of more than we know. Finding out what we’re made of and how far we can go, is always uncomfortable. When training for LeadBoat you’re going to be uncomfortable in countless ways, but once you’ve done it, it’ll be worth it. 

Put yourself out there and try it and I think you’ll surprise yourself as to what you’re capable of.

They say it’s all about balance

What’s keeping you motivated right now? 

I have more energy than I know what to do with, but I get down. No one can run at 100% all the time. It’s okay to not be motivated, and fall out of  passion. The bike needs to be a place of solace and release. It should not become work, and it’s okay to back things down right now. If you want to do it, you know you can, but if you don’t, don’t do it. Listen to your body and your mind. 

But there are so many good things that come from a bike – dopamine and endorphins. Find a coach, find a virtual community, find external motivation. You may not be driving towards a finish line right now but that doesn’t mean you can’t set quality goals. Put something on the calendar. Find some wind to fill your sails. 

Regardless of the decision or the direction, there is a certain level of peace, calm and certainty when you make the choice to move forward.


You have to have a little fun along the way!

What’s one life lesson that you’ve learned from your past that is helping you not lose sight of the big picture? 

I remember laying in a hospital bed when I had all of my physical abilities taken away. Other people were feeding me and I couldn’t stand, let alone sit at the edge of the bed. I was told I’d never walk again, but here I am. My physical ability comes and goes, like last summer I was struggling to walk and we couldn’t figure out why, but I got through it and now I’m training for all these crazy races. I guess the takeaway is that nothing is permanent. This will all pass and we will have new challenges and opportunities.  


Time is precious, as is our physical ability.  We will never be younger than we are today. We might never be more able than we are today, unless we make intentional decisions to be stronger, fitter, and smarter.  In many ways, we’re all turning to jerky. We aren’t going to be any stronger or more supple than we are today so we gotta work at it. It’s so hard to gain fitness, and we  need to be thankful for the opportunity each and every day to go after our dreams. Be stronger. Be fitter. Be smarter. Stretch, drink water, don’t turn to jerky any sooner than you have to.
What’s one obscure thing you’ve done for training during the COVID pandemic: 

I walked a 5k in my house. Someone asked me to do it and it was crazy, but I did it. I’ve also ridden 2 centuries so far, which I would have never done at this point in the year.

Helping people in the PT clinic makes me so happy, and I can’t do that right now, so I’ve been working on developing an online coaching platform, with respect to social distancing, and that’s been keeping me motivated!

Putting in the extra time on the bike

Any other advice for LeadBoat athletes out there right now? 

Don’t lose your community. To lose community aspect or physical proximity is devastating in its own way. The cycling community comes together in tough times and it’s all about supporting each other and seeing one another to the finish. 

I won’t win anymore. Very few people will. Most of us will spend time together and not do it for any glory but for the internal pleasure that brings community, forges new friendships, relationships and partners together.

Don’t lose perspective on why you ride a bike, and remember, there is no change without challenge.

Editor’s note: 

2020 will be Meg’s 3rd attempt to start the Leadville Trail 100. In 2018 she had to unexpectedly leave the race due to a sudden death in the family. In 2019, the airlines lost her bike on her way to Colorado and didn’t deliver it in time for the race. Now, there’s a global pandemic and Meg is determined as ever to join us at the LT100 and SBT GRVL. Fingers crossed!

Rider Stories #6:

Reset, Recharge and Remember Why You Love Riding a Bike:

Advice from Two Coaches (and LeadBoat Athletes!)  

Uncertainty, volatility and change have become the new normal for most of us. The world has shifted into uncharted territory and COVID-19 is impacting each of us in different ways. As athletes, we’re experiencing event postponements and cancellations with an ending that is currently undefined. To help us navigate these times of uncertainty, we reached out to two LeadBoat athletes, Neal Henderson and Andrea Dvorak, who spend much of their time coaching and guiding fellow athletes.

Both Neal and Andrea have guidelines and tips that they are using personally and with the athletes that they coach. The general message is to use this time as a reset button, slow down, remember why you love riding a bike and take time to find balance. Read below for additional stories and insights from each of these coaches.

Andrea Dvorak
Andrea raced professionally for 10 years with a very decorated resume including the United States Olympic Long Team for the 2012 London Olympic Games, winning a stage of the Route de France, competing in multiple World Championships, winning a silver medal in the 2011 US National Road Race Championship, and winning the Cascade Cycling Classic Stage Race.
Even while racing at the most elite level as a road cyclist, Andrea’s general philosophy has always been one of balance. After racing her road bike professionally for nearly ten years, she is now able to help the next generation of cyclists. Applying her extensive knowledge as a racing cyclist, Andrea along with several others, started the Miller School of Albemarle Endurance Team. A top priority for this team was for their student-athletes to be both successful athletes and students.

“I have always encouraged a healthy balance in sport and in life, especially for younger student-athletes- go to prom, go on that family vacation, go skiing, go on that trip. Never drop one thing for another.”

Now as the league director of the Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League – part of NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling League), she works with young athletes and focuses on fun and safe events.  Andrea acknowledges that cycling can be an intimidating sport to get into, but recounts the discovery and love for the bike:

“After our parents let go and we venture off the driveway, the cycling world can be a scary and intimidating arena. I am sure we all have stories of our ‘first bike’, ‘first ride’, ‘first race’. My ‘first’ experience was a combination of all three – first bike, first real ride, and first race, a triathlon. At one point during the race, I had to get off my bike and walk it up the hill, because I had no idea what gears were and how shifting into an easier gear could make life easier.”

She eventually met her first coach/teacher/bike friend, Ruth Stornetta, on the University of Virginia cycling team where her love for two-wheeled adventures began. 

“During these uncertain and difficult times, I encourage athletes to return to the basics. Remember the feeling you had on your first mountain bike ride, or the first time you rode on a new bike or a new trail. Perhaps when riding a bike was not just ‘training.’ It was fun.”

Andrea encourages athletes to get on their bikes and just ride. Use these moments to just enjoy the feeling of being free, on two wheels, like it used to be down your driveway as a young kid.

Read all about Andrea’s adventures as a cyclist: https://www.andreadvorak.org/stories

Follow her on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/drevorak/

Neal Henderson
Neal is a former professional triathlete and has coached athletes for over 2 decades. His coaching achievements are notable, including athletes with top stage finishes at the Tour de France, GC podium finishes at the Giro Rosa, World Championship titles and Olympic and Paralympic medals.  It’s safe to say that he has extensive experience, expertise and valuable insight when it comes to coaching athletes.  
Last week Neal sent a message to his athletes, from his amateurs and masters racers to his Olympic hopefuls.  Notably, the message was the same to all of his athletes “pulling back from training is the best thing that we can do in this time of uncertainty. Slow everything down and focus on mental, emotional and physical health”. 
Neal understands exactly how mental stress impacts our physical state.  

“It’s almost impossible to put real deadlines on any training right now.  As endurance athletes, we like to have schedules and we’re operating in a different time now.  What is unique about this time is that everyone is getting input from others about what they can and can’t do.  The feeling of control is being lost and managing those feelings is difficult.”

Because of the mental challenge of losing control and the uncertainty around schedules, Neal encourages his athletes to take 1-2 weeks to process everything mentally as opposed to burying themselves in training.  “The cumulative mental and physical stress won’t show up in training peaks. It’s not calculated in your TSS.” He believes that this reset in a physical and mental way will help his athletes move forward.
We asked Neal what advice he would give to those who are training for LeadBoat.  Neal offered the following:


  1. Look at and address your limiters- Going out and doing long rides isn’t an option for most of us. If you have something that you know is a limiter, this may be a great time to address it. Whether it is a skill, an imbalance, a weak area – these things may become bigger problems when unchecked. Identify what you can address and work on now.
  2. Reduce high intensity and high volume workouts- A few quality workouts per week is sufficient right now (2-3). High intensity and high volume can run down your immune system and could put you at increased risk. Physical stress coupled with mental stress add up. Now is not the time to ramp up your training. Hopefully in a few weeks we will have more firm data on what will happen.
  3. Minimize screen time- While following the news and staying connected are important, limiting time on screens, both big and small, will clear some space and time for us.
A couple of weeks of reduced training may be a blessing in disguise. When the weather warms up is when people often push themselves too much. Neal’s advice is to take some pressure off of yourself, dial it back and take care of those things that we can control.

Rider Stories #5: Healthy Fear

Fear is a natural emotion that comes with facing the unknown or pushing yourself to new limits. For this week’s LeadBoat Stories, we are going to dive into managing the fear that comes with racing and meet two incredible athletes, Kristen Mucitelli-Heath and Larissa Connors, who encourage others to embrace all the feelings that come with endurance racing.
Kristen Mucitelli-Heath
Kristen comes from a big, tight-knit Italian family, and has been a competitive athlete for most of her life. Along with her husband and seventeen-year-old daughter, she surrounds herself with three rescue dogs, a rescue cat, and 14 cuddly chickens.

She began cycling in her early thirties and has a passion for proving that if you commit and put your mind to doing something, then you can. “I’m competitive. Sometimes to a fault. Ok- I’m definitely, definitely over-competitive”.

She has competed in hundreds of races- from Ironman Triathlons, to Olympic Triathlons, Leadville 100s, Cyclocross Championships and more…but the LeadBoat Race is a new threshold for her, which she finds simultaneously terrifying and exciting.

Kristen is drawn to the simplicity and joy of racing, even when it gets hard. “I love that to succeed, you need to persevere through some amount of suffering, or a lot of suffering, and come out on the other side. It’s mental and intellectual and so basic all at the same time.” She finds that the races are so exhilarating because of the combination of layers and challenges.

I just inherently love racing. Even when I hate it. Racing itself is joy, even when it’s awful.”

Although Kristen has raced many different distances, she still faces fear when pushing herself to new limits. Last year after finishing the Leadville races, she had breathing issues and elevation sickness. “The unknown is scary. Knowing how wiped I am after races, then driving an hour or two to start another 144 miles is intimidating. Pain is a certainty.”

She compares the feeling to when she was pregnant with her daughter and wondering how much labor was really going to hurt, but also knowing she couldn’t avoid it. “I’m not a pro and I have an amazing coach and a great support network, but there is a lot to figure out to make it all go smoothly- from logistics just getting our bikes out there, to race logistics such as fuel, recovery, you name it. This is a whole new level of challenge.”

Although Kristen feels intimidated by new challenges, she enjoys doing things that scare her. “I do these things to feel whole and alive. I do them to find that precious, insanely powerful knowledge of what I can do, what my brain can do, and what I can handle. I do these things to know, during all the other parts of my life that can get stressful and hard and sometimes dark and sad, that I am powerful.”

“Growth is power, pursuing higher thresholds and harder races because of the journey and training is power. Conquering fear is power”.

Kristen praises the ‘good’ in fear. “It’s healthy, it’s natural, it’s your brain trying to protect you. The mistake is when we let fear stop us.”

“Feeling fear and assessing it is healthy.”

She urges fellow riders to acknowledge and take note of your fear, but refuse to let it drive, change, or shape you. Instead, she says that it is important to find a mantra or what motivates you, then internalize it and use it. “Work to understand what moves you. Visualize what success looks like, keep thinking about it, and spend time seeing that in your own mind. Make a plan and work your plan, do what gives you a sense of control.”

Follow Kristen at: https://www.instagram.com/kmmheath/

Larissa Connors
Larissa Connors, undefeated in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race two seasons in a row, loved being outside as a kid. This love sparked her interest in running, which shifted to road biking in college. After a brief stint on the triathlon team, a boy (who is now her husband) convinced her to try road racing, and she became hooked. 

Though Larissa has made a name for herself in the endurance sports world, the past couple of years haven’t been the smoothest ride. “I worked my way up to racing the World Cup XCO, and had a blast traveling all over to race bikes including the 2016 World Championship in Nove Mesto. At the end of that year a really unfortunate situation caused me to walk away from XC racing, but fortunately after a year of recovery and soul-searching I decided not to give up bike racing altogether and started competing in ultra-endurance mountain bike races.”

She competed in about a dozen 100-mile MTB races and had the time of her life finding her limits, pushing herself to dig deeper, and meeting new people. At the end of the 2018 season, she was competing in LA Ruta De Los Conquistadores when she got severe Rhabdomyolysis which forced her to quit the race on the second day.

“After 8 hours in a rural hospital where no one spoke English, a dead cell phone and no shirt I escaped to the race hotel, flew home and promptly spent 3 months feeling like I was dying. I thought that was the end of my bike racing career, but it turns out after 3 weeks off the bike my body had decided it was time to make a baby. I wasn’t dying, I was pregnant.”

“I was undefeated in the 100-mile races for two seasons in a row, but taking a year off to recover from Rhabdo and having a surprise baby is making me feel super vulnerable because I no longer feel like an athlete.”

Though her journey was a little bumpy, Larissa loves pushing her limits and seeing how far she can go. LeadBoat is the ultimate challenge because not long ago she was wondering if she’d ever race bikes again. 

“I’m going outside of my comfort zone because I’m used to feeling fit and having tons of base fitness, and I have none of that this season.”

Larissa feels that LeadBoat is the perfect goal because it’s humbling, scary, and exciting. When it comes to racing, the unknown is what she is most afraid of. “I know my worth as an athlete doesn’t come from results, but it felt damn good to be one of the best ultra-endurance mountain bike racers in the U.S. I knew at the start of every race that I had a good chance of winning, and I felt strong, confident, and prepared. This year there is so much unknown. My fitness is so different than it was last year at this time. Not feeling prepared and not knowing if I can get to that place in time is crazy scary.”

Larissa might be afraid of the unknown, but she believes fear can be good for us. “Fear is what kept me pushing as hard as I could on the pedals and digging deep to stay in the lead. Fear helped me win.” 

“If you aren’t scared at the start line are you really going to go beyond yourself on that day?” 

“Fear is a healthy feeling that your brain uses to keep you out of trouble, but also an indication that what you are attempting is new, bigger, harder, faster, and more challenging than anything you’ve done before. Fear helps motivate you to prepare properly, and to train, fuel, and recover in a way that will lead to accomplishing a goal but also makes the outcome more awesome when you succeed.” 

She feels that doing things that scare you are important accomplishments, and that it is important to step out of your comfort zone. “Racing 100-mile MTB races used to scare me, labor used to scare me, racing at 10,000 feet used to scare me…but by doing these things I have learned more about myself. I’ve grown as a person and I’ve had all kinds of fun, rich experiences that I cherish.” 

“If I stayed in my comfort zone, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten Rhabdo, but I for sure also wouldn’t have gotten a baby”. 

“If you are scared, embrace it. Let yourself feel the fear, think about what exactly you are scared of, then think of your plan to tackle it.”

Follow Larissa at: https://www.instagram.com/larissaconnors/

Kristen Mucitelli-Heath and Larissa Connors show us that facing your fears pushes you to new limits to discover what you’re capable of. Fear is inevitable, but learning to manage and tackle it makes you unstoppable.

Rider Stories #4:  Taking Up Cycling Later in Life

For this week’s LeadBoat Stories, we are featuring two athletes who started cycling later in life.  Despite self-identifying as late bloomers for their entry into the cycling scene, these athletes prove that it’s never too late to pick up, embrace and commit to a mind blowing challenge. Nan Doyal- a writer, author, lecturer, cycling coach, mother and former international business owner, discovered the bike in her late 40s. Cliff Bockard- a father, husband, Senior Executive and all-around strong athlete didn’t explore cycling as a standalone sport until 2018. 

Although Nan and Cliff haven’t been racing bikes since their youth, they are full bore cyclists now!  We are inspired by their determination and motivation to prepare for the #LeadBoatChallenge. 

Nan Doyal
Nan is a writer and author, a lecturer, a cycling coach and the mother of two young men (22 and 24 years old) and an Australian Shepherd. A decade ago, she had a very different life, i.e. running an international business, working all over the world and spent most of her time away from home.  She left that career in her late 40s to write a book and it was during those years that she discovered the bike. 

Although Nan started riding a bike when she was 48 years old, her palmares are impressive.  She competed in her first gravel race at the age of 51 and won her first 200-mile road race when she was 2 months shy of her 52nd birthday.  In 2018, she won the 50+ age group at Dirty Kanza. In 2019, she placed 2nd in the SBT GRVL 50+ category. 

I am and have always been inspired by far fetched goals and in particular the journey it takes to get there – especially if it involves learning how to do something I don’t yet know how to do (like MTB for LeadBoat).”

That has been the case both on and off the bike for Nan:  “It is the challenge of facing what scares me and taking it apart piece by piece to understand how to deal with it. Then putting it back together and getting on with the job, that motivates me. It has taught me to change what I can and deal with everything else. One of the reasons I love teaching and coaching so much is that I now have something to pass on that helps others.”

Nan states that she came into cycling late in life because she was doing other things that had nothing to do with physical activity. 

“Ever since I got on a bike and started to challenge myself – my life has been transformed and I have been able to do things for myself and for others I never thought possible before.”

*Photo credit: Linda Guerrette

“I am inspired to take this one on, to race hard with and against other women like me, to teach and coach those that follow me, to share what I learn from this with others. I am excited about the training journey it’s going to take to get ready for this. I have never raced in MTB before (and have only ridden one several times), but I live on a gravel bike in Vermont and there is MTB all around me out there. What more can I tell you – except I love to ride my bike, I love being outside, love the mountains. I am nervous about this (in a good way) but I am ready to take this on. I just can’t wait.”

“I’ve thought a lot about the LeadBoat Challenge – it scares the heck out of me.  But I have grown to embrace that feeling.”

“Most of the things I am most proud of have never involved my making it to the podium. They are the times when everything went wrong – mechanicals, weather, injuries etc.  When I was sure I’d lost the race and wanted to just cash out, but I didn’t quit, I kept going and I finished.”

Overcoming that terrible feeling, beating out that voice in your head that wants you to quit is the best win of all.”

“What excites me most about LeadBoat is the journey and what it’s going to take be ready. The physical, mental and emotional demands are going to be more complex than anything else I’ve done before.  I’m really looking forward to training to be the strongest all around athlete I’ve ever been in my life.”

Follow Nan at: https://www.instagram.com/nandoyal/

Cliff Bockard
Cliff didn’t own a road bike until 2012 and aside from a Trek 970 aluminum mountain bike that he had through college, it was his first real bike of mechanical stature.  Cliff didn’t compete in cycling events until 2018.

Prior to picking up cycling, Cliff was a ski racer and tennis player in New England.  Somewhere along the way, Cliff and his wife Susie discovered cycling: “Perhaps that is what drew me to cycling – there is a component where you control your own destiny — but the difference in cycling is that the community around you can and WILL get you through a race…to a destination…or at the very least to a bike shop.  I have witnessed that firsthand and have been a beneficiary of all three as well! Cycling = community.”

Although Cliff started cycling slightly later in life, he hasn’t balked at taking on enormous cycling challenges over the past few years.  He has competed in both Leadville and SBT GRVL, calling both races “absolute bucket list events individually”. Layering in the training, logistics, double carbo- load and equipment is where all the fun begins for Cliff.

“I view this challenge as a privilege and many of us have different journeys as we train.  I have 2 great boys, an amazing wife, a very demanding job…and travel a bit. Challenging?  Sure. But everyone will have their different means of getting to the start line.”

Cliff lives by the fairly straightforward quote from Warren Miller: “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.” 

Cliff applies this philosophy to time and experiences with his family, advancing his professional development, attempting new challenges and taking measured risks.  Cliff sees the fearlessness in his boys and always tries to take a sliver of that in everything that he does.

“What motivates me are the people attached to cycling in every form…and the ultimate reality that we are lucky to be able to do this.”

Follow Cliff at: https://www.instagram.com/cliffbockard/

Nan and Cliff both exemplify what it means to continue to take on challenges throughout life.  Their unique paths demonstrate that it’s never too late to pivot or try something new to accomplish great things.

Rider Stories #3: Balancing Training with a Demanding Career

Our LeadBoat stories continue with something most all of us can relate to – demanding careers. It’s always tough when those pesky jobs get in the way of our training rides! But in all seriousness, it’s something many of our journeyperson athletes must take on and overcome. This will be especially true with LeadBoat. Two extremely tough challenges on their own are now combined to make it, well… to make it EPIC. We spoke with Myles Webster and Kristin Carpenter to learn a bit about their backgrounds and how they will be preparing to tackle a big weekend in August.
Myles Webster

Myles is a 47 year old pediatrician with a successful and busy practice. He’s also a dad to three girls (yay #parity!). It’s not surprising that working to find balance is a priority. He started riding 10 years ago by commuting during his residency. His experience at the Irreverent Road Ride in Vermont has served as his training grounds, and more than likely helped him come to the conclusion that he has what it takes to finish 250 tough miles in two days

Myles plans on relying on Zwift to focus on higher intensity while coping with less than ideal riding conditions. He will also take advantage of the many gravel grinders in the North East. These will break up his indoor training, keep him focused, and provide fun to keep any burn-out at bay. Being as efficient as possible is key, and for Myles that means volume with double sessions when he can and sneaking in lunch MTB rides near work when it fits.

He’s “Just kind of winging it. No training partners, no coach. No sponsors. Not many hills or dirt roads in Rhode Island sadly – but lots of coffee and double IPAs.”

As a member of a primary care network of providers affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital he hopes to get their media department to pick up his story and also the bigger movement to promote parity in sport (and life).

Spare time fun? Well, he does have some time, and when he does, he enjoys double IPAs, baking pizza and sourdough bread.

Follow Myles on Instagram  at https://www.instagram.com/vtvelo/

Strava: Myles Webster

Zwift: Myles Webster WWCC

Kristin Carpenter
Kristin is the founder and CEO of Verde Brand Communications. And while that is definitely her paying gig, she’s also a mother of two teenagers. Her very busy and demanding schedule means finding places of release and ways to take care of herself. In the past decade, she has turned to her bike. The bike has been a central part of her self-care and a vehicle of self exploration. The process of training and competing paired with the camaraderie she has found in off-road cycling has transformed her life. She describes this community as “must-have” – like air and water.
Balancing all of it means using the inspiration she’s found through training and competing to keep her inspired. It’s also where she finds herself the most creative – problem solving for work, family, friends, and Verde.
Another facet of Kristin is that she’s discovered more and more of who she is through the sport. That realization has led to teaching and coaching. Her company’s podcast, Channel Mastery, has provided an amazing platform for Kristin to share and inspire. She feels very strongly that we are here to create expansion and serve. When she’s on the bike, she gets the creative downloads to fuel new ways to further this mission.

To make her training time the most efficient, Kristin works with CTS’s coach Renee Eastman. Structure is key when life schedules are super busy.  “LeadBoat will be the ultimate focus for this new level of my process in 2020! To say I’m stoked is the understatement of the year.”

Although a demanding career is definitely part of why Kristin is excited by the commitment LeadBoat is offering, she’s also very stoked about the parity this challenge is lending, and leading, in gravel cycling. 

“I loved the way SBT GRVL used their event as a vehicle for positive change when it came to parity in cycling. Equal prize purse, and the permission and invitation that occurred with the event when it reopened registration in Feb. 2019 to invite 200 more women to join…. It was amazing to see the before, during and now, the after, of this effort. I feel strongly that LeadBoat is furthering that momentum! I’m incredibly grateful that I was chosen to do the event!”

Follow Kristin on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/kc.carpediem/

Twitter: @kristinverdecmp

Rider Stories #2: Winter Training in Snow Country

While a handful of LeadBoat athletes live in temperate climates that allow them to train undisrupted throughout the year, many others face freezing temperatures throughout the winter and have embraced this cold weather and unconventional training.  Graham Muir, from Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Rose Grant from Columbia Falls, Montana are two such athletes. Both with training underway, they have not shied away from the outdoors in their preparation for LeadBoat.
Rose Grant: 2019 Leadville Trail 100 MTB Champion
Rose reports on her recent winter training: 

“I accept that in comparison, my training volume is less than many of my peers, and I’m good with that. Right now, I make my training count, but I save some reserves for those I cherish, and have faith in the process for the rest. A week off the bike can feel hard this time of year, but nothing is more important than invested family time; plus some long ski days have me feeling tired just same”.

“I just spent a full week training on skate skis. This allowed me to get some longer days in to help build endurance, allow the body to move in a different way than the bike alone, and allowed me to get some quality work in outdoors”.

“I’ll put my nose  down most of the month of February with my structured work indoors on my Feedback trainer, and hope some days may allow me to get outside on the road with my MTB for unstructured riding, weather dependent”.


“I make skiing with my daughter a priority and try my best to embrace the seasons and maintain a healthy balance knowing I have time. As the weather changes, longer training days become more achievable and makes Leadboat possible with it being a later season event”.

Follow Rose on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/rosekgrant/
Graham Muir-Iditarod Trail Invitational 350-mile Finisher
Steamboat Springs, CO has seen just under 18 feet of snow fall so far this season, but that has not stopped Graham. He is currently training for the ITI1000 (Iditarod Trail Invitational) 1000-mile race to Nome, which will take him through the far reaches of the Alaskan wilderness, following the Iditarod Trail to its conclusion in Nome, Alaska.  In this 20 to 30 day journey, Graham states that “he hopes to keep all of his toes and fingers”.
Despite the impending ITI1000 followed by the LeadBoat 250, Graham states:  “I still don’t classify myself as a cyclist – more as an adventurer who rides his bike. I don’t take it too seriously as far as getting uptight or too stressed but have total respect for the toughness for the events I take on”.
Although self proclaimed ‘not a cyclist’, Graham can be found on the remote, snowy roads of Routt County on his Fat Bike in sub zero temperatures.

“My trainer is my fat-bike. During the week when I get 90 mins to 2 hrs to train before the sun comes up a couple days a week, I will go climb some hills. On the weekends when I get a bit more time, I’ll try to keep it a little flatter and just spin some slow, fat miles. The weather has to be very bad for me not to go out”.

“Now that I think about it, no weather has ever been too bad. When the mercury drops and the wind picks up this is when the challenges change but stoke stays the same”.

“I’m also in the gym three times a week where I can put some intensity into my sessions. I put a big emphasis into my recovery so I can put in the hard yards and stay injury free”.

There is something to be said about getting in those winter miles outdoors-you will very often be rewarded with the gorgeous rising or setting of the sun!

Follow Graham on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/graham.bush.muir/

Rider Stories #1: Overcoming Adversity 

Two  days,  250 miles and nearly 20,000 feet of high altitude climbing. It’s an alchemy of the two of the most revered off-road road cycling events in North America. One of America’s toughest, grittiest mountain bike races followed by an equally challenging 144 mile gravel race.

For the 2020 LeadBoat Challenge athlete, this is more than a test of mental and physical fortitude on the bike. For some of our athletes, just making it to the start line will be a victory.

We are featuring two athletes who have shown resilience to overcome adversity.  Enjoy these inspirational stories of Meg Fisher and Jay Thomas who will be taking on the #LeadBoatChallenge in August.

Meg Fisher

At age 19, Megan (Meg) Fisher was a promising Division 1 tennis player with the world at her fingertips. While on her way to start her second year of college, Meg’s life took a drastic turn for the worse. She was involved in a car accident that almost killed her and changed her life forever. While lying in a coma, Meg had her leg amputated in order to save her life. 

“Before bikes were a part of my life, I was involved in a horrible car accident that stole the life of my first love and my left leg. I awoke from my coma to a new reality.”


Following the accident, Meg was forced to
re-learn some of life’s most basic tasks – eating, standing, and walking. In a true testament to her work ethic, Meg returned to college and competed in her first triathlon just one year following the accident.

For most people, going through this type of life-altering trauma would leave them without hope to compete in any type of sport, let alone one that’s inherently driven by two legs. Meg, however, never believed that her injury would stop her from competing and living her life. 
Since competing as a paralympic athlete, she’s gone on to win Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in the Paralympic Games in Rio & London and has 11 World Championships to her name. (Pictured to the right: Meg at the Rio Olympic Games)

LeadBoat, however, is a totally different animal and a true test of endurance and grit. When asked about taking on LeadBoat, Meg was confident and inspired:

“I relish a challenge.  Very rarely in our adult lives do we get to try something entirely new with the outcome unknown.  LeadBoat is a huge challenge.”

Meg has since launched a successful career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is involved in many research projects that test and improve prosthetic technology. She uses her story of trading tragedy for success as a message of hope and inspiration to those around her.

 “I can’t hide my physical scars and I hope others will see elements of their story reflected in me.  Additionally, I hope others can take a piece from my journey and use it to fuel theirs.”

With Meg’s determination and competitive drive, there’s no doubt she’ll take on the LeadBoat challenge in stride. We look forward to following along on her journey to the start line on August 15 & 16.


Follow Meg on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/megfisher/

Jay Thomas

For 51 year old Jay Thomas, his route to the LeadBoat startline has taken a different path. During his day-to-day, Jay balances a demanding work life, owning two successful businesses in the bike industry and committing to his family as a dedicated father and husband. Life is seemingly normal, but for Jay, there’s more than meets the eye.

In 2012, Jay was a nationally competitive cat 1 racer, competing in over 50 races and taking home the top step at Gravel Worlds. An entrepreneur and competitor at heart, he owned 7 bike shops with 120 employees while managing a competitive elite racing schedule. Following the 2012 race season, Jay took a serious crash while on a training ride in California. He hit the ground and something within him snapped and surfaced some deeper, darker parts of his past.
Earlier in life, Jay served as a U.S. Marine in the Gulf War. He was running surveillance as part of a sniper task force. Being exposed to war at an intimate level left him with memories that haunted him and lived suppressed deep in his psyche. When he hit the deck in his training accident in California, those memories surfaced and his life went into a downward spiral. He hung up the bike and reached for the bottle. Drinking became his hobby and cycling was out of his life. He continued to drink and descend further and further into depression, until he found AA and began an intensive outpatient therapy program. He worked diligently through the program, focusing on his mental health and overcoming his demons and PTSD while abstaining from drinking.

“After that crash, something in my head snapped. I realized I had been holding in deep, challenging memories from my past. And all of the sudden, they surfaced.”

Overcoming alcoholism and treating his PTSD was a major life hurdle for Jay. A little over a year ago, he picked up the bike and began riding again. He reached out to an old coach who got him back on track and fit. He began feeling like himself again. He’s been sober since 2017 and prepared to take on his first bike race since 2012: the LeadBoat Challenge. For Jay, LeadBoat is more than just two hard days on the bike, it’s a chance to talk about bigger issues.

“I want to bring awareness to mental health issues. These are real issues and we can’t keep them silent. Particularly for us Marines, we are told we can’t talk about this stuff, but I want to change that.“

Jay on LeadBoat:

“For me it’s much more about my internal demons and giving myself something physical that will keep them at bay. No doubt the challenge and the adventure at the age of 50 will certainly help with that.”

With a reinvigorated appetite for competition and the personal momentum of overcoming his battle with alcoholism, Jay’s motivation to ride is higher than ever. He’s no stranger to intense competition, but this time, his journey takes on more meaning than ever before.

Follow Jay on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/jaythomas69